Although it’s common knowledge that workers’ compensation law prevents, in most circumstances, an employee from suing his or her immediate employer for injuries sustained in the course of employment, few know that the provisions barring suit can also extend immunity to contractors of the employer. The scope of tort immunity under Georgia’s workers’ compensation statute was recently reviewed by the Georgia’s Court of Appeals in its decision in Smith v. Graham Const. Co., Inc.
Even though Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act is at issue in this case, the workplace injuries under consideration actually occurred in North Carolina, where the plaintiff was working on a construction project for his direct employer, Edens Enterprises, LLC. The defendant in this case, Graham Construction Company, was the general contractor of that project. While engaged in this out-of-state construction project, the plaintiff sustained injuries, for which he received workers’ compensation benefits. Although he had received benefits, the plaintiff still chose to bring claims against the general contractor, contending that the contractor’s negligence caused his injuries. After initiation of the suit, the general contractor moved for summary judgment, arguing that the suit was barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act set forth in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11(a). The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff brought the current appeal.